IF THIS were a tacky tabloid, the events of the past week could have yielded some seriously outrageous headline options:
Bullets in Broad Daylight as Girl Scouts Flee! Officers Finally Blow Whistle on Disgraced Police Chief! Citizens Shockingly Overprepared for Hurricane!
We don’t subscribe to such aggrandizement around here, and our deepest concern and sympathy goes out to those terrified by the (too many to count) shootings and to our South Carolina neighbors affected by Hurricane Joaquin.
But for real, who needs Shonda Rhimes when we’ve got multiple soap opera plotlines spilling past the sandbags into the streets?
The local election tidbits could fill a scandal rag all by itself: Somnolent City Councilwoman Robbed on Own Porch! Incumbent Hijacks Debate, Incumbent’s Husband Accused of Flashing Weapon at Challenger! The Mystifying Money Corsage: What Does It Mean?
I did not attend the candidates’ forum at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum Thursday, but those who did say that discourse between District 5 Alderwoman Estella Shabazz and her only challenger, Shaundra McKeithen, became particularly uncivil. WSAV reported that McKeithen filed a police complaint the next day claiming that Shabazz’s husband, County Commissioner Yusuf Shabazz, “decided that he would intimidate me by showing me a gun that he had brought.”
This is the same Mr. Shabazz who was charged this summer after he left the scene after hitting the flag out of the hand of a traffic worker with his car while yelling “Tell the cop I’m Commissioner Shabazz!” That case was perplexedly handed off like a box of chocolates from the county to the state last month, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Mayor Edna Jackson may consider her dollar bill brooch a symbol of her solidarity with West Savannah’s disenfranchised youth, but her reference to “the young man who died and it was my birthday” at last Monday’s Savannah Jaycees’ forum missed its mark by a far wider margin than Hurricane Joaquin missed us. A Facebook supporter provided a lengthy clarification connecting Jackson’s successful tempering of a Ferguson-like fury after the police shooting of local rapper Mr. D last year with the cultural tradition of giving money for one’s birthday, but few saw it.
To pretty much everyone else, the mayor’s greenback origami looked like the most unself-aware move by any politician all week, with the possible exception of Trump aligning with Vladimir Putin.
With all due respect, Madame, if you can’t effectively explain why you’re brandishing a cash camellia on your chest as you’re trying to convince taxpayers to re-elect you after four years of stalled projects and exorbitant outside consultant fees, maybe you should just wear a ribbon or something.
When I took this job four years ago, one of my first tasks was to cover the last election, and I don’t remember wanting to hide under my desk until it was over. Back then, the candidates’ blustering antics seemed baffling but not without certain charms; the disconnection we’re seeing now is trending towards the sociopathic.
Basically, we’ve gone from Insane Clown Posse to Heath Ledger’s Joker in one election cycle. It’s starting to look Southern Gotham out there, and Batman just stole Alderwoman Mary Osborne’s purse off her porch.
Between the bullets and the bullshit, it’s enough to make a person head for the hills with a cookie jar and a tub of moonshine. Which I actually did this weekend on my annual pilgrimage to Black Mountain, North Carolina, where the Southeastern Wise Women Herbal Conference plants its peace flag at Lake Eden every October.
I always learn so much in them thar misty mountains, from how to infuse brandy with elderberries for a stubborn cough to burning dried cedar bark to banish a bad mood to moonlight meditations that help distill reality from our own inevitably tainted perceptions.
Some may dismiss it all as hippie silliness, but many of these traditions have been practiced for millennia all over the world, and I experience them time and time again as the medicine that heals what ails me most.
(Speaking of whoo-whoo wisdom, you may have heard that Mercury is in retrograde. The backward motion of the fast little planet astrologers say rules communication tends to bring all manner of chaos, from embarrassing autocorrects to complete misunderstandings. Perhaps this has goaded our descent into Crazytown?
Pish all you want, but I’ve heard some very unexpected people blame Mercury’s wonky wanderings for all kinds of problems these last two weeks—including a prominent businessman experiencing import issues and Connect’s tech guy when he came to fix our cranky server. I wouldn’t be surprised if Comcast starts using it as an excuse for their crap internet service. So, if your Etsy order was sent to Curacao or you accidentally sexted your mom, take heart; the fleet-footed celestial body returns to its normal path on Friday.)
I adore communing with others who speak the Earth Mother dialect, and it was lovely to run into locals Janie Brodhead and Sarah Tuck with her delicious munchkin Maya at the conference. Also there was Savannah’s original garden guru Kelly Lockamy, who now has a homestead in nearby Asheville.
But even as I sashayed around the linden trees wearing a flower crown with my goddess sisters, I carried our city’s troubles with a heavy heart. What can we do when communication dissolves into confusion, and no one’s reality seems to match up into some functional collective truth?
As I drove the backroads home to avoid the interstate deluge, Joaquin’s flaring skirt drenched the path before me, I could only come up with this: If we love Savannah and we want it to be better, we must look for the humanity beneath the sensationalism. Resist the cynicism rising like bile from our guts.
At the very least, let us listen carefully to the candidates and each other as we navigate the next few weeks, and recognize our own responsibility to make ourselves heard clearly.
You’ll probably also catch me burning some bark under the moon, just in case.